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Supreme Court to hear challenge to military tribunals

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/11/07/D8DNN1MO0.html Supreme Court to Hear Tribunals Challenge Nov 07 10:20 AM US/Eastern By GINA HOLLAND Associated Press
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2005

      Supreme Court to Hear Tribunals Challenge
      Nov 07 10:20 AM US/Eastern

      Associated Press Writer


      The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider a
      challenge to the Bush administration's military
      tribunals for foreign terror suspects, a major test of
      the government's wartime powers and a case presenting
      the first conflict for new Chief Justice John Roberts.

      Justices will decide whether Osama bin Laden's driver
      can be tried for war crimes before military officers
      in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

      Roberts, as an appeals court judge, joined a summer
      ruling against Salim Ahmed Hamdan.

      He did not participate in Monday's action, which put
      him in the difficult situation of sitting in judgment
      of one of his own rulings. Lawyers for Hamdan were
      expected to ask Roberts to participate in the case, to
      avoid a 4-4 tie.

      The court's intervention was a surprise. In 2004
      justices took the first round of cases stemming from
      the government's war on terrorism. Justice Sandra Day
      O'Connor, who is retiring, wrote in one case that "a
      state of war is not a blank check for the president
      when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

      The announcement of the court's move came shortly
      after President Bush, asked about reports of secret
      U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe for terrorism suspects,
      declared anew that his administration does not torture

      "There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and
      wants to hurt America again," Bush said during a joint
      news conference in Panama City with President Martin
      Torrijos. "So you bet we will aggressively pursue them
      but we will do so under the law."

      Hamdan's case brought a new issue to the court _ the
      rights of foreigners who have been charged and face a
      military trial in a type of proceeding resurrected
      from World War II. Trials of Hamdan and three other
      low-level suspects were interrupted last fall when a
      judge in Washington said the proper process had not
      been followed.

      The men are among about 500 foreigners, many swept up
      in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, who have been held
      at the U.S. military prison in Cuba. The government
      had planned to proceed with a military trial for
      another foreigner, Australian David M. Hicks, with a
      pretrial hearing later this month, but that will
      likely be stalled now.

      Guantanamo Bay has become a flash point for criticism
      of America overseas and by civil libertarians.
      Initially, the Bush administration refused to let the
      men see attorneys or challenge their imprisonment. The
      high court in 2004 said U.S. courts were open to
      filings from the men, who had been designated enemy

      Retired military leaders, foreign legislators,
      historians and other groups had pressed the Supreme
      Court to review the case of Hamdan, who like many
      Guantanamo inmates began a hunger strike over the

      A three-judge panel of the United States Court of
      Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,
      including Roberts, ruled against Hamdan, finding that
      the 1949 Geneva Convention governing prisoners of war
      does not apply to al-Qaida and its members.

      The ruling was handed down shortly before Roberts was
      named to the Supreme Court. Ethics experts have
      disagreed over whether Roberts should have recused
      himself from that case, because he was being
      interviewed for the O'Connor seat while the matter was

      The administration argued that it was unnecessary for
      the court to get involved because the Pentagon had
      relaxed the rules for tribunals, enabling classified
      information to be shared with defendants "to the
      extent consistent with national security, law
      enforcement interests and applicable law." The
      government also changed the structure of the panels
      that will hear the cases and decide the men's
      punishment, with death sentences possible.

      Hamdan's lawyer, Georgetown University professor Neal
      Katyal, said in a filing that "it is a contrived
      system subject to change at the whim of the

      "With constantly shifting terms and conditions, the
      commissions resemble an automobile dealership instead
      of a legal tribunal dispensing American justice and
      protecting human dignity," he wrote.

      Hamdan, who was captured in Afghanistan in November
      2001, denies conspiring to engage in acts of terrorism
      and denies he was a member of al-Qaida. He has been
      charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, murder
      and terrorism.

      Trial proceedings for Hamdan and three other men were
      begun last summer but the process was halted after a
      district court ruled that Hamdan could not be tried by
      a military commission unless a "competent tribunal"
      determined first that he was not a prisoner of war.

      Besides Hamdan, the others who have been charged are
      an al-Qaida accountant, a propagandist and a Taliban

      The case is Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 05-184.


      On the Net:

      Military tribunals:

      Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
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